Thursday, October 1, 2015


The day began with broken glass.

A simple accident: she carried the jar too lightly, and it slipped from her grasp, shattering and scattering across the wooden floor where she stood, barefoot, her small tender feet now framed in diamonds. I lifted her out, set her on the stairs, and as calmly as I could, asked her to go get dressed. "Don't be mad, mama," she sobbed, clinging to the railing as she backed away up to the second floor.

I wasn't, not really. I wished I hadn't been trying to get out the door on time for work, maybe. But I wasn't mad.

I swept the glass into a dustpan, appreciating the high, thin tinkling sound it made, and emptied it into the trash.

She descended again, still sniffling, and pointed out two shards of glass I'd missed. She's like that: observant.

I hugged her, picking up the bits of glass in my fingertips, and ushered her to the door.

Now, hours later, holding her hand as we waited for the doctor, I wished for the broken glass, the ease of sweeping and disposal.

She'd been playing, tripped on a playground stone, struck her chin on a stair, gouging a long deep wound in her chin that seemed to stop bleeding, but split open stubbornly in the middle, showing me parts of her I'd rather not see.

I told her to squeeze my hand, joked about having to pee (I did, really), made small talk about Halloween, and told her how brave she was.

And felt helpless.

It had been a week of helplessness. On my walk home from a meeting at the library, I'd heard sobbing through an open window. Listening felt voyeuristic, but knocking felt intrusive. I knew the woman who lived there only a little, didn't know if she was the one sobbing, didn't know what I'd offer if she opened the door anyway.

I turned up the street and resumed my pace, heart hard in my throat.

And today I'd gotten the phone call about a passing, a mother of twins, separated from a husband who felt no responsibility for his nine year old children, seemed angry to be saddled with the burden of caring for them, had already not-cared for them, continued to not-care for them, neglecting their laundry and hair and grief. They clung to each other. I offered them nothing, wishing I could take them in, knowing I couldn't give them what they'd need, which would just be presence.

So much shattered. A friend awaiting trial. A friend assaulted, coping with debilitating illness. Cancer. And on. And on.

I tried to concentrate on the small face under the tissue paper, not the sutures that were being carefully, but oh, SO slowly tied. Four, five six, seven. She was crying now, the fear finally showing. I squeezed her hand and told her I was there and said she was brave, because she was.

Maybe it wouldn't be right to sweep away the debris. Maybe sutures are the best we can do, the interventions that leave scars and stories, but brave storytellers, too.

I just wish they didn't hurt so much to watch.
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  1. The tears flow as I write this. I've been feeling very helpless as of late. That there is so much around me that I am powerless to affect or change. Life is blatantly unfair at times. Those who don't deserve these heartaches and trials being saddled.

    May the wounds from those around me heal quickly, with minimal scars.

  2. So lovely and sad. I hope she's healing. And you.

  3. It's hard being the grown up.

    Being a little girl with a scar on her chin isn't so bad, though. And what she will remember that she was brave, and that you were there, long after she's forgotten how much it hurt.


  4. We seem to be on parallel tracks. I feel this post almost as deeply reading it as you did writing it.


  5. This brought tears to my eyes. I hope for more peace for those around both of us. Everyone I work with is fearful of loosing their jobs , mourning a change they know is coming, and I very much wish I had some magic that would make it alright for each one.

    If it helps, I had stitches when I was about N.'s age and I can only recall happy thoughts about it: that the nurses bandaged my stuffed dog, that there was some excitement, and I got to eat ice cream.

  6. This is so beautifully written, Justine. You ... no ... We are so helpless in realty, but most of the time don't have to face it so intensely, all at once. Hoping you are all finding some peace in the aftermath.


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